ZCON’s Prototype Surprise: The GTP ZX-Turbo

It’s always nice when you can get a little history lesson in during a car show, and at ZCON Atlanta‘s final event I came across the number 83 Nissan GTP ZX-Turbo. It’s a car I naturally knew was important; I just didn’t realize how important.

The car saw development before I was even born, winning Geoff Brabham a drivers’ championship in 1988. By the time I celebrated my first birthday the GTP ZX-T platform had already won three consecutive manufacturers’ championships (along with more drivers’ titles) in the GTP class of the IMSA GT Championship in America. But by the time I was intelligent enough to understand why race cars are cool, the Nissan GTP wasn’t winning races anymore.

It wasn’t until everyone had the internet in their homes that I first came across the car; just a few photos, nothing too significant. That funny swooping face that turned serious at the back end, I remember comparing the GTP to an arrow. Finally, some years later, I read that the car was making 850hp (and 800 ft-lb of torque, both with a 57mm restrictor) out of the 3.0-liter VG30 power plant. For the first time, a V6 seemed exciting.

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Fast forward to 2018 and I was excited to get up close to the car without its bodywork in place at the show. Specifically, I was was interested to see how the engine differed from the VG we find in the production-spec 300ZX.

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The massive heat exchanger on the left-hand side of the car certainly didn’t find its way into the production version, although I have read that the prototype racers did indeed use the production blocks and heads.

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The closer to the business end of the engine bay you get the more things seem to change. The race setup actually looks a lot more simple than the street car version, something I didn’t expect. I’d also always had it in my head that the car had twin turbochargers, but in reality that big power is accomplished with a single Garrett T04.

In unrestricted trim, it’s said that over 960hp and 760ft-lb is possible to the rear wheels. It seems unbelievable for the late ’80s, but this one turbo was pushing 50psi of boost to keep the VG30ET fed.

Have a listen to a start-up at the show.

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The packaging is as intense as you would expect with the tube-frame practically overflowing with little racy odds and ends. At the same time, both the design and the tech here is so simple by today’s standards.

Designed and built from the ground up by Lola Cars International, and later extensively tweaked by Electramotive Engineering (all ultimately for Nissan themselves), the GTP ZX-T serves as evidence of the drastic changes we’ve seen in racing tech in the last 20 years.

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As simple as it may be though, the car requires quite a bit of effort just to start. All of the temps needs to be just right before you bother cranking the thing.

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I wonder if I’ll look back in 20 years at the 919 and other GTP-style cars and admire their character in the same way I do with this Nissan today in 2018. It just doesn’t seem possible, though.

Complete with BBS mesh wheels measuring a whopping 13-inches wide in the front and 15-inches out back, and all wrapped up in the period-appropriate Goodyear Eagle rubber, every square inch of the car is good to look at.

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Full of stunning race-bred details, the GTP ZX-Turbo will always be a high point when it comes to Nissan; it’s the car that earned the brand its first constructor championships, and the car that ended the dominant run of the mighty Porsche 962. A car so successful they called it ‘Elvis,’ which is to say ‘The King.’

As a brand, it’s safe to say that Nissan has lots of high points, and I’ll do my best to visit as many of them as possible from ZCON Atlanta’s last car show.

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto
TYRphoto.com

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1

Very cool Nissan to be sure!
But here's hoping the 1994 LM class winning Z32 was there and gets a long, hard look!

2

That thing is wild! It wasn't at ZCON, but I know where it lives. Hopefully someday it works out to properly shoot it.

3

Agreed!
Years ago a member of a Z32 website I hang out at came upon the Daltech Z32 race car, and he shared a lot of pics of the car and the changes made for racing. I'd REALLY like to see what the '94 LM car was like inside (and out) to compare, and see where Nissan felt the car needed help to become a true contending race car.

4

Absolutely glorious.

5

I remember watching the IMSA GTP races as a kid and absolutely loving these cars... What a great series, miss them today!

6

Man I miss those old days
The turbos were so awesome back then

7

One of my all time favorite cars. That was some of the best racing ever; Nissans and Porsches battling in road and street circuits... I used to log in hundreds of tv-miles in ESPN watching every lap of the season!

8

Gives me chills. Visceral beauty & brutality so strong, you can almost smell the oil & fuel.
I'm almost sad that creations like this are truly something of the past as we move away from petrochemical "batteries" toward electric mobility.

9

SH needs more reviews like this! Good work Treavor.

10

I happened to work at Electromotive for a year back when this car was first built. The original cars were built by Lola but the chassis in the photo's is the later car designed by Trevor Harris and built by Electromotive which later became NPTI. Aerodynamics by Yoshi Suzuka. The engines were indeed production based and made over 1000hp on the dyno (I was there).

11

Awesome! That must have been a good day at the office when they put this thing on the dyno. What sort of work were you doing?

12

Badass race car!

13

I wonder how this would do in a top level time attack class on modern racing tires.

14

Watched this car race at Del Mar and Laguna Seca many a time. A true champion and classic of the era!

15

Love the photography in this article, as well as the car. What film did you use? (I'm assuming you got your film camera fixed)

16

Thanks Joel! Nope, the Nikon FE2 is still a paperweight. No one seems to have a replacement shutter curtain. I just picked up an EF-mount Canon body and plan to start putting that to use with all of my normal lenses though, which should be fun. This way I can stop faking it like I did here :)

17

Can't wait to see some photos with that! I would love to see an article about shooting vehicles on film, similar to the articles Paddy did a couple of years back. I've just inherited a Ricoh Mirai film camera (you should google it, it's a weird looking device) and it's taking me a bit of time to readjust from shooting 100 photos of the same thing until I get what I have pictured in my head.

Would love to hear your thoughts/see your setup etc

18

Very cool! I've heard of those, never used one. I'll definitely be using my new body to shoot some older cars and historic races but I'm probably not the best one for an in-depth article like that. I've only shot 20 or so rolls in my life — I started shooting in 2013 with a Canon 40D after reading those articles by Paddy haha

19

I love those old mesh bbs rims. Just somthing about gold mesh with silver lips....

20

Wow, a real race car on speed hunters. I'm not sure who the guy who wrote this is but maybe he wandered into the wrong office.

21

Any excuse to stick this one up, I know it's an R90CK but...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lMItc4cy8U

Mark Blundell plus Nissan R90CK at Le Mans Qualifying plus 1200bhp plus stuck wastegates equals pure brilliance.

22

I have a picture of this car (yes, an actual photograph) that I took of it as a teenager at laguna seca in the late 80's during the IMSA heydays. David Hobbs (yes, that Davis Hobbs) was the driver shown on the roof. Great story.

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